Acts 13:14, 43-52; Psalm 100;
Revelation 7:9; 14b-17; John 10: 27-30
Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me." (Jn 10:27)
In ministering to high school students, I have often preached about making the choice to follow others. Whom will you follow? Surely this is one of the most important questions of their lives. And that is just it – one chooses to follow some and not others. What criteria will go into your choices? You will follow someone, somewhere, in some form or another. A friend, a family member, a politician, an employer, a celebrity, a church, all of these are possibilities of people or institutions one might choose to follow in life.
The Catholic Church is now fully in the Easter season – the Great 50 Days of rejoicing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our liturgies are filled with Alleluia's and our churches are decorated with Easter lilies. The newly blessed Paschal Candle stands as a sentry near the baptismal font as a reminder of the Easter mystery. It is truly a season of rejoicing and celebration.
It is also a time of prayer as the faithful immerse themselves in their baptismal call to holiness. Each Christian is called upon to make a response to the Lord. In his death and Resurrection, he has shown us his love – he suffered and died that we might be a people of hope and new life. How will the faithful respond to that marvelous gift? In the Easter season, one must embrace the great mystery of faith. And a mystery it is. One will never scientifically prove the most important aspects of Christianity, most especially in this case the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet the faithful know it to be true; they have felt it in their hearts and souls. Christ has risen! I can feel it in my bones! It gives meaning to the Christian faith. Without it, Jesus is another good person who died for his cause. History is filled with such people, but none of them have the power of the risen Christ.
On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, the faithful are presented with the idea that they are sheep who hear and heed the voice of Jesus, the Shepherd. Part of the Easter response is to recommit oneself to Christ. Easter Sunday is behind us now, and life has returned to normal. Yet the mystery remains and in this season beckons us to a new level of faith and prayer.
Whom will we follow? This is the question of a lifetime. The Gospel for this weekend reminds us that we hear the voice of Jesus, he knows us, and we follow him. Following Christ is much like following any other person in life in that the follower must make a decision to do so. While God inspires us to follow him, he does not force himself upon us. At some point, we must make a decision.
We hear his voice in Scripture. We hear it in the depths of our hearts during prayer. We hear it in that tiny whisper of conscience calling us to do what is good and avoid evil. We hear his voice in the prayers of the sacraments, most especially the Eucharist. We hear his voice in those around us who help shepherd us in this life. Indeed, his voice is everywhere! Listen!
Upon hearing his voice, it is time for a decision. Joshua put this choice before the Israelites: "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Jos 24:15). A choice is made. During Eastertide, the faithful make a choice like that of Joshua. You have heard his voice; it is now time to follow him. You're going to follow someone, so why not follow him who suffered and died for you, only to rise and give you hope?
Realize that once you have made your decision there is no going back. You are forever changed. Now you will follow Jesus in his teachings and life. He lives in you and you in him. And the candle of hope will burn in your hearts forever, just like that Paschal Candle near the baptismal font. Thus is the joy of Easter! Amen! Alleluia!
For private reflection...
Whom do you follow? What person, politician, church, or celebrity? Why do you follow that person? What do you see in that person? The human person chooses those he follows. Make a firm commitment to follow Christ, if you are ready for a lifetime of communion with your Lord and Savior.
The Reverend Monsignor Bernard W. Bourgeois is the pastor of Christ the King Parish, Rutland, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Rutland and St. Patrick Parish, Wallingford, Vermont.